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Jay-Z’s bitcoin school met with skepticism in his former housing project: ‘I don’t have money to be losing’ | Jay-Z

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Marcy Houses, the 28-acre public housing development in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, is best-known as a pillar of rapper-turned-mogul Jay-Z’s New York persona. Built in 1949 as part of a push by the New York City Housing Authority to house the city’s low-income residents, Marcy had fallen into a state of dangerous disrepair by the 1970s when Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, was growing up there.

“Where I’m from, Marcy son, ain’t nothing nice,” he raps in Where I’m From. “Marcy me, just the way I am always gonna be,” he declares in 2017’s Marcy Me.

But while hip-hop’s first confirmed billionaire remains intent on not abandoning his roots, residents of the Marcy Houses expressed annoyance and skepticism at Carter’s latest venture, the Bitcoin Academy – a series of free “financial literacy” courses being offered exclusively to Marcy tenants this summer.

On Wednesday afternoon, as bitcoin markets scraped two-year lows, few residents were aware of the cryptocurrency classes set to begin next week as a project sponsored by Carter and his friend and fellow crypto promoter Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter. (At least some of the flyers advertising the course appear to have been simply dumped on the floor of buildings.)

“It’s kind of late to be doing that when people are trying to hold on to their dollars and everything is so expensive,” said 58-year-old retiree Myra Raspberry. “People don’t want to be investing money knowing that they might have a chance of losing it.

Raspberry said she had seen news reports about bitcoin’s crash, and had no interest in participating in the course.

“Every dime I get got to go to rent, phone, TV and internet. I don’t have money like that to be losing. If I did, I would try to invest in something that’s more reliable, like the basketball game last night. You know I’m going to win something from that.”

She hasn’t heard anybody talking about bitcoin in her community, she said. “People looking to make money, not lose it.” The average household income for public housing residents in New York City is $24,454, according to the New York City Housing Authority.

This is how Jay Z’s Bitcoin Academy is being distributed in Marcy Ps… Just throwing it in the lobby… lol

“Financial Literacy” pic.twitter.com/BQNdSO1Far

— Bayi (@Coach_HugginsJr) June 14, 2022

The 12-week Bitcoin Academy course will be taught by Lamar Wilson, who runs the website Black Bitcoin Billionaire, and Najah J Roberts, founder and CEO of a brick-and-mortar crypto school in California called Crypto Blockchain Plug.

“The simple goal is to provide people tools to build independence for themselves and then the communities around them,” Carter tweeted, calling the course at Marcy “hopefully the first of many”.

A spokesperson from the Bitcoin Academy said that participants will receive a free mobile hotspot device and a smartphone with a data plan, as they sit for lectures on topics including “What is money,” “What is blockchain,” and “How not to get scammed.”

The academy also plans to grant students a small amount of bitcoin worth around $20-$25 after they learn to set up their own digital wallets.

The spokesperson said an open house event at Marcy over the weekend drew a large and eager crowd of mostly seniors and young people.

But younger Marcy Houses tenants who spoke to the Guardian were unenthused. Nyashia Figueroa, a 24-year-old resident who plans to work as a caretaker for mentally challenged people, said the Bitcoin Academy seemed unhelpful to residents.

Nyashia Figueroa, a 24-year-old resident of Brooklyn’s Marcy Houses, says Jay-Z has lost touch with the community where he grew up.
Nyashia Figueroa, a 24-year-old resident of Brooklyn’s Marcy Houses, says Jay-Z has lost touch with the community where he grew up. Photograph: Wilfred Chan/The Guardian

“Half the people that’s going to go to that class, probably just going to go to the class for the $25 that you get. The other half of the people, they’ll probably take what they learn and forget it down the line.”

Figueroa said the bitcoin class signified how out of touch the rapper was with his former home.

“If you want to do something, fix this place up,” she said. “We have a basketball court with no hoops. Our parks is broken up in here. He should be doing more for his community, not no Bitcoin Academy.

“The only thing I could say he really did for us was the Christmas stuff. Every Christmas he would come around and he would give out free toys to the kids or like pocketbooks, perfumes and little MP3 players. That was good; the bitcoin ain’t.”

Figueora added that the holiday giveaways haven’t happened in a while. “He stopped coming around, and then it was just his mother that was coming around for a long period of time. And now I don’t even know if they do it any more.

“This is where he rep he’s from and all that, but he don’t do nothing for us.”

A baseketball court without at hoop at Marcy Houses.
A basketball court without at hoop at Marcy Houses. Photograph: Wilfred Chan/The Guardian

Carter has directed some of his philanthropy, including scholarships and toy giveaways, to Marcy’s more than 4,000 predominantly Black and Latino residents. The last toy giveaway by the Shawn Carter Foundation occurred in 2017, according to the website of Carter’s wife, Beyoncé, and cost $8,452. The Shawn Carter Foundation did not immediately return a request for comment.

One Marcy resident, Luis Rivas, did express enthusiasm for the class, saying, “I would like to learn how they become a millionaire, and learn what to trade and what not to trade.”

Rivas, who is unemployed, said he had been acquainted with Jay-Z when they were both teenagers. “Now he’s a billionaire and I’m still living in the fucking ghetto.”

Since it was announced last week, the Bitcoin Academy has faced criticism from tech commentators, who have accused the project of preying on financially vulnerable people. Some have compared the marketing of crypto to how predatory lenders targeted people of color with subprime loans in the run-up to the 2008 housing crisis.

Proponents of cryptocurrency have long defended the technology as a way to build a new financial system for lower-income people.

Marcy Houses, the housing project in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood where rapper Jay-Z grew up.
Marcy Houses, the housing project in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood where rapper Jay-Z grew up. Photograph: Wilfred Chan/The Guardian

A 2021 research paper commissioned by a major New York City-based cryptocurrency exchange, Gemini, argued that cryptocurrency could benefit unbanked populations in Mexico, India and Indonesia.

Citing centuries-old informal Latin American financial traditions, the paper argued that cryptocurrency companies can “build upon and digitize” practices that “assist in the creation of wealth for poor communities and allow them to thrive in locations deemed unprofitable by traditional banking standards”.

But recent cryptocurrency disasters cast doubt on this vision. Last month, Terra, a so-called “stablecoin” that used an algorithm to maintain a peg to the US dollar suddenly cratered, making billions of dollars’ worth of digital tokens worthless – and taking countless investors’ fortunes along with it.

Since May, the price of bitcoin – the first cryptocurrency – has nearly halved as well, as more investors flee digital assets. Crypto companies have been laying off hundreds of staff.

The Bitcoin Academy spokesperson acknowledged the broader uncertainty in the crypto market, but said it wouldn’t hinder the course at Marcy Houses, which would be focused on financial education. The instructors, Wilson and Roberts, did not respond to requests for comment.

Even some local cryptocurrency fans remain skeptical.

Gerald, a Brooklyn resident with friends and family living at Marcy who declined to give his last name, runs a small charity that gives people bitcoin. But even he said that “financial literacy” wouldn’t solve Marcy’s “biggest issue, which is a lack of capital, a lack of resources, and a lack of funding for our communities”.

“Teaching someone about bitcoin that doesn’t even have $100 in their savings account is not helpful,” he told the Guardian via social media. “Then of all places to do it in Marcy Projects?! Those people are just trying to survive and see the next day.”

To Gerald, the image of Bitcoin Academy flyers strewn on the floor spoke volumes.

“The fact that it was on the floor like that. It honestly symbolizes how people feel about poor people in general. On the surface, it looks like folks want to help, but once you start peeling back the layers, you realize nobody really cares.”



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Linux 6.0 debuts, missing some Rusty bits • The Register

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Emperor Penguin Linus Torvalds has released the first release candidate for Linux 6.0, but doesn’t mind what you call it.

“After I had already decided to call this kernel 6.0, a few Chinese developers piped up and pointed out that ‘5.20’ is a more wholesome version of the Western ‘4.20’ internet-famous number,” he wrote in his announcement that Linux 6.0 rc1 has been released.

“4.20” is a reference to a day on which some celebrate marijuana, while “5.20” does likewise for magic mushrooms.

“So if you want to call this ‘Linux 5.20’, go right ahead,” Torvalds wrote.

“Because the kernel version numbers really are entirely made up and have no intrinsic meaning.”

That this week’s release has the 6.0 label is still nice to know, as discussion on the Linux kernel mailing list in recent weeks used 5.20 and 6.0 interchangeably.

As The Register has already reported, the release does not make major changes to the kernel but does include many useful updates – such as more RISC-V support, code to drive Intel’s Gaudi accelerators, and improved ACPI handling.

Torvalds lamented some Rust-enabling code didn’t make it into the release.

“I actually was hoping that we’d get some of the first rust infrastructure, and the multi-gen LRU VM, but neither of them happened this time around,” he mused, before observing “There’s always more releases.”

“This is one of those releases where you should not look at the diffstat too closely, because more than half of it is yet another AMD GPU register dump,” he added, noting that Intel’s Gaudi2 Ai processors are also likely to produce plenty of similar kernel additions.

“The CPU people also show up in the JSON files that describe the perf events, but they look absolutely tiny compared to the ‘asic_reg’ auto-generated GPU and AI hardware definitions,” he added.

The release includes 13,099 changed files, 1,280,295 insertions and 341,210 deletions. Torvalds calculated those numbers “just because I was curious and looked.”

He wants you to be curious too – or at least curious enough to test the kernel, because that’s what release candidates are for and this one contains at least one active bug. ®

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Tinder is the most hated app in Ireland

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Ireland is one of 19 countries worldwide that strongly dislikes Tinder. One in five Tweets by Irish people about all apps are negative.

According to Electronics Hub’s analysis of the most hated apps in the world, Tinder is the most loathed app in Ireland.

Irish people are not alone in their hatred for the dating app. Tinder was the most hated app in 19 countries in total, with Canadians, Americans, Nigerians, Kenyans and our neighbours in the UK also singling it out as their least favourite.

Electronics Hub determined the most hated apps in each country by analysing Twitter data. It processed more than 3m geotagged tweets related to 87 social media, dating, mobile games, entertainment, cryptocurrency and money transfer apps.

Researchers calculated the percentage of tweets about each app that were negative using a sentiment analysis tool which identifies whether a tweet has positive, negative or neutral sentiment.

Infographic of the most hated apps in the world by country.

Click to enlarge and see the most hated apps in the world by country. Infographic: Electronics Hub

Ireland was found to be one of the most negative countries when it came to attitudes towards apps. One in five Tweets posted by Irish people about apps were negative, Electronics Hub found.

Despite Irish people’s professed loathing for Tinder, the dating platform tried to play a role in keeping daters safe in the pandemic. It hooked up with the HSE to promote vaccines by adding badges to users’ profiles.

Tinder was only the second-most hated app in the world, with Roblox taking first place. More than 20 countries said the child-targeted gaming app was their most hated app. Other unpopular apps include Snapchat, Disney and Reddit.

Neighbouring countries tend to dislike similar apps, with the Scandinavians professing a dislike for Reddit and South Americans hating e-commerce apps.

Dating apps, meanwhile, are disliked the world over. In Iraq, 71.4pc of all tweets about Tinder are negative, which is the highest out of any country. A state-by-state breakdown of the most hated apps in North America also found Tinder took the top spot in 21 states.

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‘A sweatshop in the UK’: how the cost of living crisis triggered walkouts at Amazon | Industrial action

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Amazon workers say they are working in a “sweatshop” as safety concerns and worries about the cost of living crisis have triggered walkouts at warehouses around the country.

The Observer has spoken to four staff involved in the walkouts, who work at three Amazon warehouses, including Tilbury in Essex, where protests began on 4 August. All say they will struggle to survive this winter with pay rise offers between 35p and 50p an hour – far less than the rate of inflation, which is currently at 9.4%.

The workers, who spoke anonymously for fear of reprisals from Amazon, said they were speaking out to highlight how the firm’s ultra-cheap, ultra-convenient, super-fast delivery model works.

Amazon employs more than 70,000 people in the UK, adding 25,000 staff in 2021 alone. Many work at the company’s 21 fulfilment centres, where some workers say they are asked to carry out long, physical shifts, with difficult targets, for low pay.

Starting pay in Amazon warehouses will shortly be increasing to between £10.50 and £11.45 per hour, depending on location. An Amazon spokesperson said this was a 29% increase in the minimum hourly wage paid to staff since 2018. They said it is also augmented by a comprehensive benefits package worth thousands of pounds a year, and a company pension plan.

But staff say it is too low for the type of work being done and given the current economic crisis, especially at a company that just posted $121bn (£100bn) in revenues in the second quarter of 2022 alone.

“When we heard the news, it was shocking,” said one worker at Amazon’s warehouse in Tilbury. “It’s ridiculous. Inflation is [forecast to reach] 13%, and our salary increases barely 3%.” The worker rents a house with her husband for £1,350 a month without bills. “My salary is £1,600. … I’m lucky I’m married, otherwise I’d be homeless.”

Some staff are seeking a pay rise of £2 an hour from the tech giant.

Hundreds of Amazon employees stop working over disputed pay rise – video

Another worker at Amazon’s warehouse in Tilbury said they were “petrified” about how they would survive this winter. “We had a scenario recently where someone was living in [an] Amazon [warehouse],” he said. “If I’m honest, I can probably see that happening again.

“I can see people staying in the canteen all the time because they can’t afford to go home.”

The worker is protesting against the poor pay offer, as well as conditions that lock staff in cages for entire shifts at the warehouses, from where they pick items to be delivered to customers. (Amazon says the workstations are to protect workers from moving robotics.)

“It’s a Chinese sweatshop in the UK,” said the second worker at Tilbury. “It’s how they set up their model.”

The worker has struggled with his mental health while working for the company. “I’ve realised how bad Amazon is for my mental health,” he said. “The anxiety of going into work, knowing you’ve got to do the same stuff day in, day out, is horrible.”

That concern is echoed by a worker at an Amazon facility near Bristol, who has worked there with his wife for three years. “It was good initially,” the worker said. “There was a lot of safety consciousness, and the targets were pretty reasonable. But now they’re just pushing it higher and higher, and exploiting people.”

Around 100 Amazon staff at Bristol staged a sit-in at the company canteen on 10 August – action for which they say they were docked pay by management at the site. “The vast majority of people went back to work at that point, because at the end of the day, as much as they want to fight for it, they have to think about themselves financially.”

The Bristol warehouse worker says that managers used to stop employees from lifting heavy items from bins on high shelves in the warehouse without a ladder. “If you overstretched yourself for 10 hours, you’d end up with a bad neck and a bad back,” he said.

That has subsequently changed as staff said they felt pressured to meet ever-escalating demand. Staff pushing carts around the warehouse used to be limited to using one cart at a time for safety reasons; now it is claimed managers turn a blind eye to staff pulling two carts at once. “They don’t say nothing because all they care about is getting the work done as fast as possible,” he said. “Safety just goes out the window.”

He says he has personally lifted items weighing up to 25kg by himself, despite rules saying anything heavier than 15kg should be lifted by two people.

A worker at an Amazon facility in the north-west of England said that managers at his warehouse similarly ignored rules around not running on site and lifting down heavy items from high areas in an attempt to meet targets, which at his site require two items to be picked every minute.

Amazon declined to respond to specific claims.

Martha Dark, director at Foxglove, a non-profit organisation working to highlight issues within tech companies that supports Amazon workers, said: “None of the workers we’re supporting wanted to protest.

“They’re desperate and can’t survive on these wages. Meanwhile, Amazon threatens to dock pay and send workers to HR for revealing the truth about life in the warehouse.”

She added: “Amazon needs to respect workers’ rights to organise, stop penalising people who are fighting to survive and provide a real pay rise now.”

Two workers said they plan to leave the company because of the conditions and pay. However, some hope to stay put – to change things.

“If a lot of us who are experienced leave Amazon at this point they’ll get a new group of people in who they can mould into this depressing way of work,” said the Bristol worker. “That’s the problem.”

This article was amended on 14 August 2022. Inflation is at 9.4%, not 13% as stated in an earlier version; the latter is a forecast rate.

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